• Publication Date: June 8, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554811625 / 1554811627
  • 132 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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  • Publication Date: June 8, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554811625 / 1554811627
  • 132 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The best-known work by Aphra Behn, Oroonoko is an important contribution to the development of the novel in English. Though it predates the British abolition movement by more than a century, it is also an early depiction of the dehumanizing racial violence of slavery; Oroonoko tells of a noble African prince enslaved and taken to Surinam, where he leads a violent revolt of the enslaved. This edition offers helpful annotations, an informative introduction, and contextual materials situating Oroonoko in the context of seventeenth-century slavery and the colonization of Surinam. The early reception of Oroonoko is also documented.


“Tiffany Potter’s edition of Oroonoko makes this important text accessible to a wide range of readers. The introduction offers a concise biography of Behn as well as an insightful discussion of Oroonoko’s genres and reception. The text itself is helpfully annotated, and the supplemental materials provide essential contexts related to European understandings of Surinam and the slave trade. Potter’s edition will doubtlessly become the standard text for generations of students.” — Christopher D. Johnson, Francis Marion University

“Potter’s edition marshals vital contemporary documents to illuminate the emerging contexts of global trade, enslavement, and colonial racism within which Behn carves her tale. The introduction, as well as gathering the scant information we have about Behn herself, emphasizes the emergence of racialized discourses that were mobilized to justify slavery and the colonial appropriation of distant lands. Potter’s footnotes offer a commentary perfectly pitched to make the strange elements of Oronooko clear to new readers.” — Kerry Sinanan, The University of Texas at San Antonio


  • Aphra Behn
  • Oroonoko

Oroonoko: or, The Royal Slave: A True History

In Context

  • from Aphra Behn, the Dedication of Oroonoko to Lord Maitland (1688)
  • The Invitation to Surinam: Lord Willoughby’s Prospectus
    • from Francis Willoughby, 5th Baron Willoughby of Parham, Certain Overtures made by the Lord Willoughby of Parham unto all such as shall incline to plant in the English colony of Surinam on the continent of Guiana (c. 1655)
  • On Surinam in the Seventeenth Century
    • from George Warren, An Impartial Description of Surinam upon the Continent of Guiana in America (1667)
  • The Restoration Monarchy and the Slave Trade
    • from The Several Declarations of the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa (1667)
  • Infographic: England’s Slave Trade
  • Europeans on Slavery, Gold Coast to Guiana
    • from William Snelgrave, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea, and the Slave Trade (1734)
    • from Charles de Rochefort, The History of the Carriby-Islands (1658, English translation 1666)
    • from Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657)
    • from Thomas Tryon, Friendly Advice to Gentleman Planters (1684)
    • from Jean-Baptiste du Tertre, General History of the Antilles Inhabited by the French (1667–71)
  • Black Voices on Slavery in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
    • Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (1787)
    • from Richard Price, First-Time: The Historical Vision of an African American People (1983, second edition 2002)
  • Eighteenth-Century Commentaries on Aphra Behn and Oroonoko
    • from Thomas Southerne, dedication to his stage adaptation of Oroonoko (1696)
    • from anonymous, The History of the Life and Memoirs of Mrs. Behn, written by one of the Fair Sex (1698)
    • from The General Dictionary, Historical and Critical (1735)

Tiffany Potter is Professor of Teaching and Associate Head of Curriculum and Planning at the University of British Columbia.